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Narcissistic parenting has a huge toll on kids. Parents with this personality disorder have a distorted perception of the way emotional relationships work and take it out on their kids. In public, everything may seem fine and normal, but behind closed doors, a story takes place. Narcissistic parenting robs kids of a normal childhood, and when they become adults, it’s like they have to learn how to live life all over again. In this article, we shall talk about narcissistic personality disorder, narcissistic parenting, and how it affects kids.
What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder In Parents?
Narcissistic personality disorder is a disorder wherein a parent thinks too highly of himself/herself. It’s not high self-esteem or confidence, but genuine disregard for others for the sake of oneself. A good example of narcissism would be to constantly talk about yourself and not show any interest in what others do, irrespective of how they end up helping you. Parents with this personality disorder either realise they have the disorder quite late or never. Thus, a lack of empathy is shown when raising kids, and this creates an impact that lasts for the rest of their lives.
How to Know Whether You Are a Narcissist Parent
One of the clearest signs of being a narcissist mother or a narcissistic father is when you get stressed when trying to understand your child’s perspective. You fail to relate to what they are going through and cannot put yourselves in your child’s shoes.
Here are a few of the many characteristics of narcissistic parents:
1. You Are Very Controlling
You just cannot stand your child’s independence and can’t tolerate it when you watch them growing up. You dictate where she goes, what she does, and if she is allowed to have fun or not. An extreme sign is isolating your child from her friends.
2. Your Love Is Not Unconditional
You want your child to do well in studies and win in sports just because it makes you look good. You pressure your kid into being the best she can be without investing your time into her emotional health and well-being. You simply see your child as tools for your personal fame and fortune in the game of life.
3. You Downplay Your Child’s Problems
Every single time your child faces a problem, you talk about a story from the past. Instead of listening to them and validate her feelings, you throw him out of the window and talk about your hardships. Basically, it doesn’t matter what your child is going through since, in your eyes, you’ve gone through much worse. It’s not about the kid, it’s about you all the time, and that’s what makes it so toxic.
4. You Make Fun of Your Child
You make jokes at your child’s expense in front of her friends and make him feel worthless. You attack him where it hurts and berate a lot. Sarcasm and using a humiliating tone in everyday conversations feels normal to you.
5. You Don’t Take a “No”
When your child wants to attend a birthday party, you can’t say yes. When she refuses to do any household chores because heis are busy or has homework to do, you refuse to accept that. Your child starts fearing you because you constantly disapprove of what she wants to do.
6. You Try to Impress Others
You get over your head in pursuit of trying to impress others. You show off your fancy clothes and try to create an impression in public that you are a rich and outstanding member of society. You depend on social validation and compliments from your peers over respecting your child and investing time in him. This is one of the biggest narcissistic parent symptoms.
7. You Experience Emotional Outbursts Frequently
You feel cold and under the weather whenever your child brings up something good. You fly into a fit of rage the minute her shows uniqueness or signs of independence, and sometimes, you feel just disconnected from whatever it is she is trying to do or show you. You have zero tolerance for her feelings, and when she shows a bit of resistance, you break down and try to induce feelings of guilt and shame – a common narcissistic personality disorder mothers and fathers tend to exhibit.
Impact of Narcissist Parents on Children
Children of narcissistic parents have to live with the psychological trauma of being scarred or having bad memories of life. When they finally grow up, they have to unlearn some of the bad habits imparted on them via narcissistic parents and learn how to re-calibrate themselves back into society and become emotionally healthy. It’s a long road and a tough journey, but the gist is, there are consequences to being parented by a narcissistic guardian.
Here are some of the traits of children of narcissistic parents or the effects of narcissistic parenting on kids:
- Always second-guessing oneself and not being able to trust in one’s sense of judgment.
- Constant doubt, worry, panic, and fear of failing or letting down others.
- Not being okay with making mistakes and feeling like it’s the end of the world when not being perfect.
- Overreacting to tiny problems and making false assumptions too quickly about others.
- Distrusting others and feeling like he/she is constantly manipulated.
- Always feeling “not good enough” and learning not to take care of himself/herself emotionally.
- Struggling to relate to peers and fit in with friends and classmates. Having a constant feeling of disconnect.
- Facing feelings of jealousy and hatred from a parent when succeeding in school and social activities.
- Having low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and facing shame or humiliation at home.
- Not having a role model for life and having to learn how to develop emotionally healthy relationships as an adult.
- Not being able to appreciate oneself when doing a good job and suffering from mental health problems like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.
- Self-sabotaging one’s goals or being at the extreme end of the spectrum by being a high-achiever.
- Having binge eating disorders or a lack of control/direction in life.
- Exhibiting toxic relationships or behaviour similar to what was inflicted upon them by parents.
- Not being able to focus on work or inability to hold a job or complete specific tasks. Lack of focus and being dysfunctional or difficult to work with is another trait that’s often exhibited.
How Can Narcissistic Parents Help Themselves?
If you are a narcissistic parent or you think you could be, we’re sorry to hear that. But, if you are open to personal change and self-development, the good news is that there is hope. Giving your child the life she deserves and making an effort towards positive change is a sign you are willing to become a better parent.
Here are some ways narcissistic parents can help themselves, especially the ones who aren’t close-minded.
1. Start Seeing a Therapist
Most often, the root cause of narcissistic parenting is tied to childhood trauma and bad memories. Maybe it’s the way you were raised that caused you to hole up or lock yourself inside your shell. Seeing a therapist is the first step to reconnecting with that inner child and finding out what caused you to turn out to be that way. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary.
2. Appreciate Your Child’s Efforts
Start by being happy about your kid’s achievements and recognise her accomplishments. Don’t just give her superficial compliments, but be true to your words. If she aced a test, don’t just say “good job”. Go through the papers, see what she did well, and praise that. Be specific with your compliments and tell her how you noticed what she did. This will make her feel truly appreciated instead of just receiving random compliments and forgetting about them later on.
3. Practice Gratitude
There are many kids who grow up without parents. True, you’ve not been the best parent, but you still exist. You can transform into the best version of yourself and give your kids a bright future. Start realising that and work your way towards positive change by practising gratitude. Write down 5 things you’re grateful for every day and what went good in a journal. This little practice of self-care and compassion will go a long way towards nipping narcissism in the bud.
4. Place Yourself In Your Child’s Shoes
Being able to show empathy and compassion are two cornerstones of being a parent who is not too narcissistic. Imagine what a day is like in your child’s shoes and try to see situations from her perspective. This will help you realise when you are too hard on your child and help you work on becoming a better parent.
5. Have a Support System
If you are a narcissist dad or narcissistic mom and want to change – you have to realise that you cannot do this alone. If your partner is not narcissistic, observe him/her, and ask for tips. You can join support groups and get insights from other parents who are good at parenting.
6. Work On Yourself
Sometimes poor lifestyle choices and nutrition impacts you mentally. If you find this to be the case, start by cleaning up your diet. A healthier diet and lifestyle will impact your mood and make you feel better. You can see a dietician or a nutrition counsellor, who can help you make healthier food choices if you feel you’re suffering from food addiction or disorders. Cut out smoking, alcohol, and any bad habits that impair your decision making, and the ability to think clearly as a parent. When you work on becoming a better person yourself, your child will notice and respect you naturally as a role model. It becomes a positive chain reaction instead of a downwards negative spiral. And, you’ll thank yourself for this later. Don’t forget to work out or exercise, too, since it gives a rush of endorphins and is good for you.
7. Address Your Childhood Issues and Trauma
Spend some time reflecting on what you went through as a child. Write down your fears and moments of rejection. Try to notice these patterns in conversations whenever you interact with your children. If you find any similarities, don’t react to them. Analyse, make a note of it and let it go. Do your best to make sure it doesn’t repeat. These tiny changes will build over time, and you’ll be a better parent soon enough.
Relationships never come easy. Sometimes adults never realise they require counselling or therapy until someone points it out. Children of narcissistic parents sometimes have trouble holding jobs, and the dysfunctional environment makes integrating back into a healthy reality a lot harder. But, there is hope – the first step is distancing away from narcissistic thoughts and people. By having a loving and emotionally healthy support system, the road to recovery becomes possible with time and patience.